EU preparing new sanctions on Iran over nuclear programme
The European Union is drafting a new round of sanctions on Iran, the French and German foreign ministers announced on Friday, pointing to the lack of progress in negotiations over the country's contentious nuclear programme, DPA reported.
France's Laurent Fabius said the new restrictive measures would target "financial, commercial and oil aspects." The EU has already implemented a wide-ranging oil embargo on Iran.
The announcement came on the same day as Canada unexpectedly closed its embassy in Tehran and said it would expel all Iranian diplomats, describing the country's regime as "the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."
Fabius said the new sanctions should be ready in time for the next United Nations General Assembly, which gets underway on September 18 in New York. Germany's Guido Westerwelle spoke of the EU adopting the sanctions on October 15.
"Our wish is to find a solution through negotiations; for that the Iranians would have to accept to budge. But for the moment, they are not budging," Fabius told reporters after meeting with his EU counterparts in Cyprus. "The negotiations are treading water."
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - who has conducted the talks with Tehran on behalf of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - said she last spoke with her Iranian counterpart "two or three weeks ago."
The two sides last held a face-to-face negotiating session in June in Moscow.
"We will not accept any talks and negotiations that only amount to a delay," Westerwelle said, expressing concern about the "lack of progress" so far.
Tehran insists that its nuclear programme is of a peaceful nature. But Fabius pointed to a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report showing that Iran was ramping up its controversial uranium enrichment programme.
"There would be no need to do this if its goal was strictly civil," he said. "We don't accept the perspective of an Iran that would be in possession of nuclear weapons. It's too dangerous."
None of the ministers who spoke during the debate on Iran voiced objections to drafting more sanctions, according to Fabius.
"It is vital that this issue is confronted and dealt with, but far better to do so in a peaceful way, through sanctions but also negotiations," British Foreign Minister William Hague had told reporters earlier.
Israel has repeatedly raised the possibility of an attack to thwart Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme.